In Russia’s capital Moscow, three schools have introduced the teaching of either Swahili or Amharic as a second foreign language this fall.
According to Sputnik Africa, the new step in language education for young Russians is key for building economic, diplomatic, and cultural ties with the African continent.
Alexandre Solomassov, principal of the Moscow school № 1522, explained why learning Amharic, the most widely-spoken language in Ethiopia, is an asset for young Russians.
“Our country’s cooperation with African countries is developing rapidly and one of our main tasks as a school is to create all the conditions for our students to start preparing for the professions and the new challenges of tomorrow today,” he said.
The African continent is perceived as one of the fastest growing business markets in the world, and knowledge of local languages is regarded as beneficial for investment, business, and international relations, Solomassov explained to Sputnik News.
At Solomassov’s school, Amharic is taught by two students from the Institute of Asian and African Countries at Lomonosov Moscow State University. Amharic teacher Milena Koniaeva, explained that the demand for Amharic language education has risen since Ethiopia was invited to join the BRICS countries, making it “more relevant than ever.”
Konieva added, “Ethiopia has one of the most cordial relationships with Russia. Amharic is the lingua franca spoken by most, if not all, Ethiopians. And to establish a diplomatic dialogue or economic ties, the Amharic language can certainly become a key factor.”
Sophia Zamessina, another teacher at the school, affirms that the cultural understandings sparked by Amharic language education are fundamental to building a relationship between the two countries.
“Language is the key to the African heart, the key to the human heart in general. If you talk to someone in their native language, it breaks down a lot more borders. And Africans also have great confidence in a person who speaks the same language as them,” Zamessina added.
According to the press service of the Department of Education and Science of Moscow, the study of African languages started in three schools from the new academic year, on September 1 2023. It is hoped that more schools will follow.